Governmental Affairs News
Sales tax collection changes face delay
The change in sales and use tax payment schedules for accelerated filers (retailers that remit $720,000 or more in sales tax per year) will likely move from January 1, 2014, to January 1, 2015. Under HB 4920 and 4921, changes passed last year that switch the two 50 percent sales tax payments to a 75 percent payment plus a reconciliation payment made on the 20th day of the month will now start January 1, 2015. The date change was requested by the Department of Treasury, which is currently transitioning to a new IT system that collects several taxes, including the state sales tax. In an effort to streamline the transition to the new system and prevent unnecessary costs of modifying the current system, the department recommended revising the effective date.
The bills passed the House 109-1 on November 12 and have been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The staff of Chairman Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Twp.) confirmed that the committee plans to take up the bills when the legislature returns from the hunting break. We anticipate the Senate will approve HB 4920 and 4921 before the end of the year.
House approves countywide transfer of SDD licenses
The House approved legislation 103-7 on November 14 that would allow grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores and other special designated distributors (SDD) to transfer liquor licenses countywide. SDD license transfers are the only liquor licenses restricted to transfer within a municipality. HB 5140 includes a phase-in for each county by capping the number of transfers to 10 stores in the first year, 20 in the second and 30 in the third year.
Retail wine uncorked for restaurants
The House approved legislation 105-5 on November 14 that would allow consumers to bring an unopened bottle of retail wine to certain restaurants for consumption. HB 5046, sponsored by Rep. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), does not create a mandate but would allow restaurants to permit customers to bring in their own wine. It also gives restaurants the ability to set corking fees. The bill does not apply to homemade wine or specialty and craft beers and could boost retail wine sales.
New pet shop regulations under consideration
Legislation designed to set humane standards for large-scale commercial breeders would also impact pet shops and animal shelters by requiring additional documentation for animals and inspections. The bills, HB 5095 and SB 560, would prohibit the import or sale of a dog or cat less than eight weeks old, a standard practice for most breeders. The bills also create standard holding times for animals brought to a shelter and establish a record-keeping system for shelters and breeding facilities.
Under the bills, a pet shop could not import, sell, adopt, exchange or transfer a dog unless the animal had been vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, rabies (if the dog is over 12 weeks of age), parvovirus, and it would be required to be treated for external and internal parasites if needed. Cats must be vaccinated against feline panleukopenia, calici viruses, rhinotracheitis and rabies (if the cat is over 12 weeks of age), and it must have been treated for external and internal parasites if needed. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development director has the discretion to require vaccination and treatment of any other diseases as needed.
An interstate health certificate or certificate of veterinary inspection must accompany dogs, cats and ferrets. The certificate must be filled out and signed by an accredited veterinarian licensed in the animal's state of origin, include records of the dog's medication and immunization and would only be valid for 30 days.
On October 31 the Senate Agriculture Committee took testimony on SB 560 but has not scheduled a vote at this time. The House Regulatory Reform Committee has not taken up HB 5095.
Renewable energy standard goal may increase
The state Energy Office and the Michigan Public Service Commission recently issued a report on renewable energy indicating the state could feasibly reach a 30 percent renewable energy standard for utilities. The report found that Michigan is on-track to meet its current goal of 10 percent renewable energy by 2015.
Last November, Gov. Snyder stated in a special message that the state should focus on increasing renewable energy. However, attempts to raise the rate by placing a new standard in the state constitution were soundly rejected by voters last fall. While the cost of using renewable sources has dropped, it is imperative that the state consider the reliability and affordability of such a plan and set goals rather than requirements.
State files Medicaid expansion approval
The state formally asked for federal approval of Michigan’s Medicaid expansion plan on November 8. Michigan’s plan requires the feds to sign off because it uses a different plan than the basic option under the Affordable Care Act. The plan creates individual health savings accounts for adults and requires payment of up to 5 percent of their income toward the plan. Healthy behaviors can help reduce monthly premiums and co pays. The state anticipates the plan will be approved by the end of the year.
Other important items to note:
- Legislation that would repeal dietician licensing, HB 4688, passed the House by a 71-39 vote on November 13 and was referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee.
- SB 660, which would allow patients to purchase medical marijuana from pharmacies pending federal changes, passed the Senate 22-16 on November 13 and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
- The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee adopted and reported a substitute version of SB 656, a bill that would require the Department of Community Health (DCH) to use a Maximum Allowable Cost (MAC) price reconsideration process for all Medicaid clients.
- Legislation banning the sale or use of credit card skimmers, HB 5050-5054), passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 13. The Senate also introduced its own version of the anti-skimming bills, SB 683 and 684, on November 13.